Welcome to GeekPots. I create wheel-thrown functional and decorative ceramics, inspired by math, physics, kitchen gadgets, and the occasional chicken.
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A life-long pianist, I find working with clay similar to practicing a musical instrument: both processes invite one to develop attention to form and detail, to balance technique with improvisation, and to discover a personal creative voice.
Alongside music, my background in physics and math informs my art. Physics governs the relationships between the forms and surfaces of my zigzag and swoosh pots. I cut or swipe patterns into slipped cylinders; these expand into captivating organic designs as I stretch the pots from the inside. Friction torques vertical lines into spirals, parallel swooshes drift apart or scrunch together, and coarse canyons emerge between smooth-slipped plateaus. The transformations are different every time, functions of variables both within and beyond my control: initial patterns, depths of cuts, slopes of curves, plasticity of clay bodies, magnitude of expansion, directional spin of the wheel. Occasionally, fortuitous scars appear: an un-wedged air bubble pops and flattens to hug the pot’s surface, or a narrow fault line cracks open as the clay stretches to its limits. I enjoy how this rough evidence of material and process juxtaposes with well-practiced symmetry.
My swooshed surfaces are made using cake decorating combs. Sometimes I apply sodium silicate (a desiccant) before swooshing, which yields a crackle effect.
I once spent a beautiful afternoon perusing kitchen supply shops in Meran, Italy. After spending at least 20 minutes staring at a gadget-laden wall, I was approached by a shopkeeper who asked if I needed assistance. I did my best auf Deutsch to explain that I was a potter seeking tools for surface decoration. I suspect he thought I was a little crazy, but I did eventually leave with a snazzy new ravioli wheel to add to my collection.
My dad was a math professor at the University of Illinois, so I grew up wandering around Altgeld Hall looking at vintage plaster Platonic solids stored in antique oak curio cabinets. Much of my art makes me think about math and physics, from the swoosh and zigzag pots above to the more explicitly mathy Klein bottles, nested spheroids, Cadogan teapot, π plate, and salt rocks below.
The ceramic hole (to quote Jacques Derrida’s Of Grammatology) “adds itself, it is a surplus, a plenitude enriching another plenitude, the fullest measure of presence . . . But the supplement supplements. It adds only to replace . . . if it fills, it is as if one fills a void . . . its place is assigned in the structure by the mark of an emptiness.”
Ph.D. Music Theory, minor Linguistics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1998
B.M. Piano Performance, summa cum laude, University of Arizona, Tucson, 1991
M.S. Astronomy, University of Arizona, Tucson, 1989
B.S. Physics, summa cum laude, University of Illinois, Urbana, 1987
Ceramics classes taken at the Durham Arts Council, Claymakers, and Penland School of Crafts
Workshops taken with Alan Bennett, John Britt, Leonora Coleman, Susan Feagin, Marty Fielding, Denny Gerwin, Jamie Kirkpatrick, Jim Lawton, Kent McLaughlin, Vince Pitelka, Deborah Schwartzkopf, Gay Smith, and Carolyn Wyland
RELEVANT WORK EXPERIENCE
Independent Studio Artist, 2010-present
Instructor, Claymakers, Durham, NC, 2007-present
SOLO AND DUO EXHIBITS
Claymakers, Circle of Influence, two-person show, Durham, NC, January 17-March 14, 2020
Carol Woods Retirement Community, solo 3D show, Chapel Hill, NC, April 13-May 18, 2018
Contributing Mathemalchemist, 2020-present
A collaborative mixed-media art installation, Mathemalchemy celebrates the joy, creativity, and beauty of mathematics.
National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, January-June, 2022
THE POTTERS’ PENGUIN PROJECT
Founder and curator, 2016-present
A community art project to make the impacts of global warming on distant places more immediately tangible to makers and viewers, the Potters’ Penguin Project energized nearly 600 makers to create over 2,000 handmade clay penguins, and raised $5,000 to support environmental advocacy non-profits.
I enjoyed writing “Raiding the Kitchen” so much that I wrote another article for Pottery Making Illustrated this fall. If I had had room, I would have written about Jacques Derrida’s concept of the Supplement from Of Grammatology, because it seems so apt for describing holes: “[The supplement] adds itself, it is a surplus, a plenitude enriching …
Earlier this year, I wrote an article for Pottery Making Illustrated. My working title was “Using Kitchen Gadgets to Pre-Texture Stretched Pots.” Fortunately, their editors decided “Raiding the Kitchen” was better. Originally published in Pottery Making Illustrated, July/August 2021. http://potterymaking.org. Copyright, The American Ceramic Society. Reprinted with permission.
This past March, I joined a group of artists, mathematicians, and mathematician-artists collaborating on a math-art installation that is generating layer upon layer of mathematical and artistic thought, narrative, punning, and play. For me, during this summer of covid, the “Mathemalchemy” project has been an opportunity both to get to know a bunch of really …